In bathroom, put accent on light

There are many ways to brighten the space

July 01, 2006|By MICHAEL WALSH | MICHAEL WALSH,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Typically the smallest room in the house, the bathroom is also the space most likely to be daylight-deprived. That's not particularly surprising, given the need for privacy and the limited opportunities for windows.

Despite those constraints, though, it is possible to brighten a bath's prospects. The best time to do it is at the planning stage, when you're designing a bath from scratch for a new home or an addition or when you're remodeling an older bath.

One thing to keep in mind is that locating a bath on the south side of a house maximizes its exposure to daylight all day long. As the sun moves from east to west, the space will have access to daylight from sunup to sundown.

When drawing up a floor plan, try to configure the bath so that its major elements - tub, toilet, vanity - are located on interior walls, leaving exterior walls available for more or larger windows.

Also, remember two daylighting principles. One is that the best-quality natural light comes from high up, a notion that can influence the style, height and placement of windows. The second is that it is usually desirable to have light coming in from at least two directions. Logically, having windows on two walls is better than windows on just one.

Consequently, if at all possible, increase the number and the size of windows. A floor-to-ceiling window of obscure glass or glass or acrylic blocks, for example, can drench a bath with daylight without jeopardizing privacy.

To get light from high up, choose an extra-tall window, one that reaches almost to the ceiling. Control privacy with tiered louvered shutters, cafe curtains or translucent pleated shades that can be lowered from the top down. Any of those three can leave the top half of the window uncovered much of the time.

Alternatively, top a conventional window with a transom window that is too high on the wall to allow a view from the outside in and that never needs a shade or blind.

The wall above a tub is a good place for a row of three or four small, transomlike windows with sills at about shoulder height. That way, when you're getting in and out of the tub, only your head will be visible to outsiders. Or, install a row of little windows or a wide elliptical window high above the vanity mirror.

Like a mini greenhouse, a garden window can also be a good option. Usually reserved for the kitchen, a garden window protrudes beyond an exterior wall, capturing daylight from four directions - both sides, the front and a sloped top.

House plants on glass shelves bring a bit more nature into the bath. Simonton Windows makes a model with opening casements on both sides to provide fresh air as well as daylight. For information: 800-746-6686 or simonton.com.

If you're planning a bath with a separate toilet compartment, try to work in at least a small window to help illuminate the closetlike space. Instead of a solid-wood door, choose a door of frosted glass so that daylight can pass through in both directions.

Paint doors, window frames and the wood trim around them a bright white to reflect as much light as possible.

A shower with glass or glass-block partitions in place of solid walls can also allow daylight to travel around the bath.

Also, think about whether daylight can be funneled into the bath from adjacent spaces, such as a master bedroom or hallway. If so, flank the bathroom door with sidelights, the kind of glass panels typically found at front doors. Again, translucent glass or glass blocks can take care of the privacy issue.

If the neighbors are just too close to make larger or more windows practical, consider skylights, either the conventional kind that are like windows in the ceiling or tubular styles that direct light down through the roof and attic via highly reflective flexible ducts. Both types can flood the bath with daylight, even on gloomy days.

Ventilating skylights can be partially opened with a remote-control device to help rid the bath of steam and heat, at least during warm weather. To control the amount of light and solar gain, some skylights are available with pleated shades that can be opened or closed with a remote control or a manual telescoping rod.

Finally, to make the most of whatever amount of daylight is available, choose light-reflective colors and materials for the bath. Dark-stained wood cabinets and dark floor, wall and countertop tile can, in effect, soak up daylight. Minimize window treatments whenever possible or choose light-colored translucent shades or blinds that allow daylight to penetrate even while blocking views from the outside.

In addition to reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day, natural light can make a small bath seem significantly roomier, warmer and more inviting.

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